Get Ready for a Trial Separation From Your Smartphone


Get Ready For A Trial Separation From Your Smartphone – 026


On this episode 26, Jenny and I discuss how week 2 of our digital detox went and then we discuss how mindfulness can help while breaking up with your phone. Then we help you get prepped for your trial separation from your smartphone. We also review how our 18 for 2018 lists went and encourage you to make a list of 19 for 2019!

I’m diggin’ the beginning of snowboard season and Jenny is diggin’ an awesome sketch comedy show.  My win is related to keeping myself together while Christmas shopping and Jenny’s learn is related to holiday season burnout.


Tune in and Listen Below



What You’ll Hear (and don’t want to miss!)

1:54: Your phone is changing your brain.  I share some terrifying details here.

5:28: Jenny and I review how week two of this breakup with our phones went.  One of us did better than the other (I’ll let you guess who!) . Then we start the process of getting mindful about using our phones in the plan for week 3.  We also get you prepped  for the trial separation from your smartphone.  Eek!!  Get all the daily instructions for week 3 below in Resources for this episode.

21:03: Listener Feedback:  Some great words and quotes from some of you who are listening and playing along.

22:31: What Are You Diggin’ Lately?  I’m diggin’ the beginning of snowboard season Jenny is diggin’ The Baroness Von Sketch show on CBC

26:36: You Win or You Learn: My win this week is related to keeping my head on straight during holiday shopping and Jenny’s learn is related to trying to keep it all together and be everything to everyone around the holidays.

31:20: We do a recap of our list of 18 for 2018 and then we wrap it up for this week.  Next week we will discuss how our trial separation from our smartphones went. We hope you’ll give it a try too and let us know how it goes.  We will also reveal our list of 19 for 2019.  19 Things that we want to accomplish in 2019.  Start making your list because the beginning of the year is almost here!!


Resources + Links Mentioned in This Episode:


Right click here and save as to download this episode to your computer

Book: How To Break Up With your Phone by Catherine Price


Meditation and Mindfulness Episodes of The Improvement Project Podcast:

Episode 6: Mindfulness and Meditation

Episode 7: Let’s Talk About Meditation

Episode 8: The Strategy of Scheduling To Create a New Habit

Episode 9: Book Report: 10% Happier by Dan Harris

Episode 10: Meditation Challenge Wrap Up

App:  Duolingo.  Helps you learn a new language (I’m using it to learn spanish!!)

App: Kindle.  Read books on your phone.

App: Headspace.  A great guided meditation app. (I like this one)

App: Calm.  Another great meditation app.  (Jenny likes this one)

The Baroness Von Sketch show on CBC:  Fit Bit Sketch

Podcast: Happier with Gretchen Rubin Episode 199:  They review their 18 for 18 Lists

My 18 for 18 List


Third Week of the Smartphone Breakup

This week is about reclaiming your brain. Spending hours on our phones has negative effects on our attention spans, memories, creativity, stress levels and general experience of life. So now we are going to work on undoing some of those effects. A lot of this week is inspired by mindfulness so will be a bit of a throw back to our August challenge about Mindfulness which you can check out by listening to episodes 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Day 15: Stop Breathe and Be: You can use this to remind yourself to pause before reaching for your phone…or to ground yourself any time you’re feeling anxious or agitated in general. It is just what it sounds like. Stop what you’re doing, take a slow deep breath and tune in to the details of what you’re experiencing in that moment. This exercise will create another speed bump between your impulses to check your phone and actually doing it. It will allow you to re-orient yourself so you can decide what you really want to do.

Day 16: Practice Pausing: We are going to practice being still. Instead of automatically checking your phone in a down moment, just be still and see what comes up. Stillness allows your mind the space it needs to be creative and come up with new ideas. So identify a couple of situations where you’d usually reach for your phone to kill a bit of time….standing in line, waiting in the waiting room at an appointment, taking the elevator etc. Then just notice what’s around you or stare at the ceiling or look out the window….be still.

Day 17: Exercise Your Attention Span: Now that you have been practising stillness, the next step is to work on re-strengthening your muscles of attention and rebuilding your ability to ignore distractions. Like any skill, the more you practice sustaining attention…the better you’ll get at it. Some examples of how to do this: work on strengthening a mental skill like multiplying 2 digit numbers in your head or focus for a period of time (a car ride, a walk) on one particular problem in your work or personal life. You will build capacity for focus…by focusing. You could also read a book book….this is exactly the type of mental exercise that strengthens our attention spans and encourages deep and creative thought. Over time, regular reading causes physical changes to the brain in areas responsible for reasoning, processing visual signals, and even memory

Day 18: Meditate: we have discussed the benefits of meditation in length in the month of August this year when we did our meditation and mindfulness challenge. If you are interested in doing a bit more of a deep dive, go back and listen to episodes 6,7,8,9 and 10.
Paying attention isn’t just about choosing what to focus on. It’s also about ignoring everything else….and that part takes work. The better we are at ignoring, the better we are at paying attention. And it turns out that being able to ignore distractions is good for our working and long-term memories too.
Mindfulness meditation will help with this. We recommend the app Headspace or Calm which will give you guided meditations and at least the first 10 or so are free.

Day 19: Prepare for Your Trial Separation

Identify what you are taking a break from: Your phone for sure…but maybe choose to take a break from any internet enabled devices with screens including tablets, smartwatches, laptops and desktop computers. Voice activated devices like Alexa or Google are your call. TV and movies too, though Catherine Price recommends avoiding screens entirely. This experiment is supposed to be dramatic.

Tell People What You’re Doing: Inform parents, friends, roommates, bosses and anyone else who’s likely to contact you for the next 24 hours. (this will help you prepare…and hold you accountable.

Get Others On Board: Ideally everyone in your household should participate. You can also recruit a friend to do this with you.

Make Plans: Schedule some enjoyable things you can do and people you can spend time with during the break.(remember that you made a list of things you wanted to do on day 6)

Use Hard Copy Instructions: If you are driving somewhere new, print or write down the instructions ahead of time. (you can always ask for directions…old school)

Get a Pad of Paper or Notebook: Use it to make a list of things that you want to do or look up on your phone when the trial separation is over. (you might find by the time you turn your phone back on…you’ll no longer care)

Set an Automated Phone Greeting: If you feel like you need to , change your outgoing voicemail to explain what you’re doing.

Use Call Forwarding: If you have a landline, you can forward calls from your cell phone to it. You can also call whoever you want from a landline (so if you think you want to…make sure you write down their numbers before the separation)

Set An Out-Of-Office Response for Email: set up an email vacation reply that explains what you’re doing.

Set Up an Automated Text Message Response: anytime someone texts you, they’ll receive an automatic response that says you’re not checking your texts (optional…you could let them know an optional way to reach you) Starting with iOS 11, Apple offers a Do Not Disturb While Driving option that you can use to automatically respond to text messages. At the moment, the best option for Android users is to download a 3rd party app (like OFFTIME)

Day 20 and Day 21: Your Trial Separation: You can do your Trial Separation during any 24 hour period (preferably on a weekend). Make sure you’ve done whatever you need to do to prepare. Then turn your phone off….and whatever other devices you’ve decided to take a break from….and hide it someplace out of sight. You can do a short ritual to mark the transition. The author of the book starts her phone breaks on Friday at dinner. She and her family light a candle, join hands and take a couple of deep breaths…then they eat….and their phones go away for (at least) 24 hours.

What to expect: you might be just fine and not miss your phone at all but you may also be surprised at how difficult and uncomfortable it is. In addition to their many practical purposes….our phones may also be distracting us from our emotions.
Don’t be surprised if you feel irritable, impatient or just off. You’re detoxing. You can choose to sit with the discomfort or you can jump into one of your pre-planned activities.

-Read Books, Play a musical instrument
-Exercise, walk, stretch, play a game or a sport
-Do a puzzle
-Do some drawing or painting.
-Work on a project that has needed to get done around the house but has been put on the back burner for awhile.
-Do something fun with real people.
-Talk to strangers (the author calls this a fleeting relationship) A brief interaction that creates a sense of connection. Talk to a waiter or a cashier, someone sitting near you in a bar or on a plane. Instead of looking down at your phone, you can connect with another human. Notice how it makes you feel.

You got this!!!


Key Quotes:


“Can we talk for a minute about the fact that your phone is changing your brain?

The structure of our hearts and livers doesn’t substantially change once those organs are formed.  And until surprisingly recently, scientists believed that the physical structure of our brains was similarly fixed.  Then came the realization that our brains are constantly changing, and even more shockingly, that we have some control over the process.  

As of 2017, Americans are spending an average of 4 hours per day on their phones.  If you spend four hours per day doing anything, you’re going to get pretty good at it.  Think about playing the piano for 4 hours per day or learning to speak another language for 4 hours per day….our brains respond powerfully to repetition and practice.  So what is all this time on the phone training us to develop….and at what cost?

Most of the hours we spend on our smartphones are  not spent in concentrated thought. Instead we are picking up our phones for a few minutes or seconds at a time.  Even when we’re on them for longer stretches, we’re not engrossed in one activity. We’re scrolling and swiping between screens.

And even when we stay within one app, say a news app or social media, we’re usually still not focusing on anything for more than a few moments.  Every tweet, message, profile and post pulls our brain in a different direction. But that’s not to say that we only casually focus our attention on our phones.  On the contrary, they completely absorb us. The result is what seems like should be an oxymoron: an intensely focused state of distraction.

As it turns out, this type of frequent, focused distraction isn’t just capable of creating long-lasting changes in our brains: it is particularly good at doing so.  In his 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, journalist Nicholas Carr wrote that: “If you were to set out to invent a medium that would rewire our mental circuits as quickly and thoroughly as possible, you would probably end up designing something that looks and works a lot like the internet”

Catherine Price argues further that today: If you wanted to invent a device that could rewire our minds, if you wanted to create a society of people who were perpetually distracted, isolated, and overtired, if you wanted to weaken our memories and damage our capacity for focus and deep thought, if you wanted to reduce empathy, encourage self-absorption, and redraw the lines of social etiquette, you’d likely end up with a smartphone.”

Peggy quoting from How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price



Share your thoughts… We’d love to hear from you!


What was your biggest take away from this episode? Let us know if you are continuing with this challenge of breaking up with your phone.  Are you making plans to do the trial separation from your phone for 24 hours?  We would love to hear your experience.

Come and say ‘Hi’ on the socials using #theimprovementproject.  I’m on Instagram and Twitter and Jenny is on Twitter

We also have a Facebook group. Come over and ask to be added to the group to join in on the habits conversation! 

And if you never want to miss a new episode, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter.


Show some love


Did you love this podcast? Leave an honest review over on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help spread the word, and we take the time to read each one.

Listen on iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | Spotify

The Improvement Project podcast is hosted by Dr. Peggy Malone and Jenny Couse.  Peggy is a health care provider who encourages her patients every day to create better habits associated with their health and wellness.  She is wife to John and mom to fur baby Calvin the fat orange cat.  Dr. Peggy is also a human being on a mission to create better habits for herself and by doing so, she hopes to inspire others to take up the challenge with her!  Jenny is a marketing professional in the international trade sector.  She and her husband Jeff are parents to hilarious 5 year old Ethan.  Her year of monthly habit resolutions in 2015 piqued her interests in how habits are created and best kept.

Join them weekly to explore how to create healthy habits that stick on the journey to becoming better humans!



Until next time,


Let’s get to work on improving your most important project.  That’s YOU!  Stay focused and get after it!

Thank you so much for listening.

Big Love,

Peggy and Jenny